29 January 2013
Last updated at 16:24 ET
The first US soldier to survive losing four limbs in Iraq has said he is looking forward to swimming and driving after having a double arm transplant.
Brendan Marrocco, 26, was injured by a roadside bomb in 2009.
He also received bone marrow from the deceased donor of his arms, a therapy intended to help his body accept the new limbs with minimal medication.
His surgeon says it will take more than a year to know how fully Mr Marrocco will be able to use the new arms.
“The maximum speed is an inch a month for nerve regeneration,” Dr W P Andrew Lee, who led the 13-hour surgery last month at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, told a news conference on Tuesday.
Four other soldiers have lost all four limbs and survived since Mr Marrocco.
‘Sky’s the limit’
He said he did not know much about the donor but was “humbled by their gift”.
His surgery was only the seventh double-hand or double-arm transplant ever done in the US.
On Tuesday Mr Marrocco said he was looking forward to returning to driving and swimming after the transplant.
“I just want to get the most out of these arms, and just as goals come up, knock them down and take it absolutely as far as I can,” Mr Marrocco said on Tuesday.
While he has used prosthetic legs, the former soldier said he hated not having hands.
“You talk with your hands. You do everything with your hands, basically, and when you don’t have that, you’re kind of lost for a while,” he said.
Arm and hands prosthetics are generally not as advanced as those for feet and legs.
While he continues physical therapy at Johns Hopkins and later at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, doctors are giving Mr Marrocco a good prognosis on the ultimate ability to use his new hands.
“He’s a young man with a tremendous amount of hope, and he’s stubborn – stubborn in a good way,” said Dr Jaimie Shores, the hospital’s clinical director of hand transplantation.
“I think the sky’s the limit.”
Mr Marrocco had been living in a specially outfitted home in Staten Island, but it was heavily damaged as the cyclone Sandy hit the New York City borough last year.